Hi,

You don't know me, however, although you may not know me, I promise you that you do know someone like me. This someone might be a friend or acquaintance, a brother or sister, a boyfriend or girlfriend, a husband or wife, a mum or dad, an aunty or uncle, or even just your nice next door neighbour. This "someone" is a person who has either suffered, is suffering, or will suffer from mental illness at some stage in their lives.

With that said, I suppose I'm writing this to try and be a voice for the "1" in the 1 in every 6 Australian's who suffer from a mental illness. My hope is that rather than trying to raise awareness (a fact that I now think the most of us already know) it might start a much-needed conversation between those who want to help and those who are screaming in darkened silence. 

So, here goes. 

My name is James Anderson.
I'm a 34-years old.
I live in Sydney, Australia.
I'm a personal trainer.
I've got friends who love me.
Yet sometimes I feel very alone.
And, every now and again, I suffer from anxiety and depression.

There, I said it.

An anxiety and depression sufferer's open letter to the internet

Now, although you may never have suffered from a mental illness, there are people in your life that do. For me personally, these past few years were incredibly tough. I lost my mum, my nanna, and I almost lost my father to a brain aneurysm. This was all happening in a period in which I was enduring the flow on effects of a failed business and being $100,000 in debt. 

Although these years haven't been the greatest; I know they don't even come close to being the worst of what some people have to endure. But, to be honest, does it really even matter?Because at the end of the day, pain and suffering is still pain and suffering. It's also a completely personal and unavoidable part of life. 

It doesn't matter what age, race, or religion you are. It doesn't matter if you're straight, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, or you haven't even worked it out yet. It doesn't matter if you're a CEO, a barista, a tradie, a teenager, a stay at home mum/dad, or you live on the streets. And it doesn't matter whether you're rich, poor, or somewhere in between. Because as we all know, this thing called "LIFE" can really f**king hurt sometimes, right?   

But... What always got me through was the strong sense of love and connection with those closest to me. It was a knowledge and deep feeling of safety that there were always people to balance and support me in those times where I felt like I was teetering on the edge of what I thought would be disaster. It was a "human" connection.

An anxiety and depression sufferer's open letter to the internet

Recently however, things seem to have changed. Because although I might have gained a wider "connection" to the world through this amazing thing called the internet, it seems to have come at a cost of depth with those closest to me. It pains me to say this but I've watched as friends have shared these recent cookie cutter "suicide awareness" and "mental health awareness" posts on Facebook yet forgot to notice and reach out to those people (like me) who may have retreated away from the world suffering in pained silence.

To be perfectly honest, I don't believe it's nearly as important to raise awareness as it is to become more aware of those around us. We all know it's a problem, it's now our responsibility to those who we love and care for to become "more aware of them". Because it's always nicer to hear the warmth in someone's voice, than to feel the coldness of their key strokes.

And it would be nice to feel a connection, without the need for Wi-Fi. Just as it would be nice to have a deep conversation, rather watching them share the shallowness of a copied paragraph. I'm also not discounting that these posts don't have the right intentions, I simply think that they're a little misguided without the human follow-up so desperately needed.

The reason why I say that is because many of my friends probably don't know that it wasn't too long ago that I was seriously contemplating suicide as I continued to struggle finding my way through the tough times that seemed to just go from bad to worse - all the while being too scared to ask for help.

In fact, this is one of the reasons I'm writing this as I've always found that hearing other peoples' stories empowered me in the knowledge that we're not all made of stone. With that all said, I would like to just say a couple of things that hopefully make sense to those who may need to hear them. 

An anxiety and depression sufferer's open letter to the internet

1. If you're not feeling yourself, it's completely Ok. In fact, f**k it, it's completely normal. So, despite what you might continue to be forced to believe by mainstream media and many social media posts - we're ALL human and we ALL have struggles.

2. Although you may suffer from bouts of mental health problems, please don't believe that's who you are. You are so much more than whatever pain, suffering, and uncertainty you might be challenged with at the time. Please know that it will get better - keep fighting.

3.  We are being forced on an almost daily basis to filter ourselves to fit the world; only ever showing our "best side". Allowing people to see that you've got cracks and creases will bring the world closer together. Show your human side every now and again and watch how much power it has.

4. Reach out to people, in person. You'd be surprised how powerful it is to feel an authentic "how are you going".  And if you're suffering from a mental illness, although you may not feel like people care, I promise you, they do.

5. Telling people that you're struggling with things and reaching out for help shows incredible strength. Mental illness is not weakness, if more people realised this, the less stigma would surround it. Reach out, please. Start the conversation.

6. Look up. Get your face out of your phone and look people in their eyes and truly connect with people again. You'll be surprised how amazing the "real world" can be.

To finish up, I was recently questioned by a friend about writing this letter as they believed it might not be "appropriate". When I said that if I didn't, I'd just be allowing this problem to perpetuate rather than trying to help be part of the much needed solution.

They just said - "Well, you're stronger than I am". But, the truth is, I'm not. I don't see myself as strong for writing this; I just know that as someone who has suffered from some of these illnesses from time to time, that it can help others feel safer in reaching out or speaking about their troubles -- my hope being that as we shine light on darker moments, we all end up living in a brighter world.

Love,

J.A x

An anxiety and depression sufferer's open letter to the internet